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From being bullied for being overweight to an international SUP rider: the story of James Van Drunen's overcoming

27 June 2020 - 02: 24

Throughout these weeks we have been learning about SUP or Paddle Surf, how to enjoy it safely on the coasts of Dénia and Marina Alta and how to choose the ideal board and paddle.

Today we are going to see the most human side of our sport, we have James Van Drunen, a young international rider residing in our region, an example of self-improvement and dedication. Let's get to know him:

QUESTION. Hello James, despite your youth, you have had a long career related to SUP, in fact you currently live from your sports passion. Is that so?

ANSWER. At the moment yes, I am now 21 years old and I have opened a Stand up Paddle academy in Xàbia last year. I really enjoy being in the water teaching how to row and enjoy the water.

I still love doing national and international races, it will always be my first passion for the sport.

Q. What are you most passionate about in Stand Up Paddle?

R. That Stand Up Paddle is a sport for anyone and any age as well. You are never too old to practice and enjoy paddle surf.

Q. Some people think that SUP is a calm and low intensity activity. Is that so?

R. It depends on the person who row. For me when I am rowing, training is a very active and high intensity activity, for example when I train intervals of 200 meters and also with the long distance of 20km.

Q. Many people discover that in addition to physically evolving by practicing our sport at sea, they also grow personally and emotionally. What do you think?

R. I strongly agree that with Stand Up Paddle you also grow personally and emotionally.

Physically it is a sport in which you have to use all the muscles of the body to do a good rowing technique and also the muscles of the legs to be stable on the board. It is also a perfect sport to do rehabilitation and recover and strengthen after muscle injuries or breaks.

P. The Mediterranean appears to be a calm sea, perhaps that is why many are not aware that it is necessary to be very prudent and plan activities.

R. That's right, many people say that the Mediterranean is very calm and there is hardly any risk when you enter the water. But we have to respect the Mediterranean like any sea or ocean in the world. Always, before going out to the water, to train or for a while going out with my friends to row, I look at the weather forecasts by an application to know in what direction and when it is foreseeable that there will be strong winds or if there is a risk of storms .

You always have to remember that the waves and the wind are always stronger than you.

Also, whenever I go out alone to paddle or do a downwind, I notify a family member or friend who is on the beach that I have paddled and I will also say how many hours I will go out in the water.

I also want to remember that it is important to respect and care for the sea by picking up pieces of plastic. We all must take care of our sea.

Q. Your personal experience has not always been linked to sports. Do you want to tell us a little about what those times were like?

R. When I was 14 years old I never thought about going to the sea because I was always playing video games and I stayed at home eating badly and drinking liters of soft drinks ... At one point in my life I came to weigh almost 110 kilos.

At that time I was harassed by some young people in my institute for being overweight. After a year practicing Stand Up Paddle, boxing, gym and eating healthier I lost 30 kilos.

P. A difficult time through which, undoubtedly, many kids spend today ... What would you say?

R. Never keep quiet and talk about your bulling problems. Since I was 8 years old, I was harassed because I was silent and I was ashamed to talk or "talk" about my problems. Today we have help channels that we can use and stop bullying. You don't have to resort to violence to end bullying problems, we are smarter than that.

Talk about your problems because there is always someone who will be listening and there is always a solution to help or end the harassment or any problem you have.

Q. Well, going back to our days, you have several sporting achievements and you have been traveling a lot, tell us briefly what that adventure has been like.

R. The adventure began at age 17 having a professional contract with the Mistral brand and I became part of its international team.

I have been vexing and competing throughout Europe, but the most precious places where I have competed have been Mauritius, Australia and New Zealand.

Q. Currently, what projects do you have?

R. I had planned to make the Eurotour circuit (international competition) but, given the circumstances, I will stay here, it is time to continue working hard at the Stand Up Paddle Academy that I have in Xàbia and take advantage of the winds to do many downwinds (navigate in favor wind and waves).

Q. What do you think will be the evolution of the Stand Up Paddle post COVID?

R. I think virtual racing will be the evolution until there is a vaccine for COVID. There are many organizers now that are doing online events that help all international and national athletes to keep the motivation of the training.

Q. Finally, how do you see SUP in our area?

R. In our area of ​​the Marina Alta it is the most beautiful place to do and practice Stand Up Paddle. We have incredible beaches and clear waters, and some of the largest caves in Spain to visit.

I have visited many places around the world, but now nothing can be better than where I train which is EL PORTET Beach ...

Q. Would you like to add something?

R. Thank you very much for having an interest in my history and my passion for Stand Up Paddle.

Q. Thank you. See you in the water!

If you have any questions about Stand Up Paddle, you can contact clubdesurfdenia@gmail.com and we will answer you quickly.

Text: Dénia Surf Club
Photos: James Van Drunen

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